Just like Brown’s “British jobs for British workers” jibe; Jack Straw’s preposterous sound bite about the alleged tendency of Pakistani men to rape young white girls was something you’d expect from the UK’s fringe far-right rather than a prominent member of a mainstream party. Yet once again we are presented with a Labour politician taking it upon themselves to provide those opposed to immigration, multiculturalism and ethnic harmony with an invaluable boost for propaganda and recruitment.
Straw’s loyalists will stamp their feet, cry out that his comments were misconstrued and cling onto the claim that there is a cultural problem. This is tenuous at best; the high court judge ruling in the cases that provoked Straw’s outburst specifically stated that the race of assailants and victims was coincidental. Even the former Home Secretary’s own party are rushing to distance themselves from his assumptions – with Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman Keith Vaz publicly denouncing such stereotypes.
However, even if there were some truth in what Straw has said he is still unarguably at fault for announcing it so brazenly and publicly. Surely a veteran politician should realise the enormous dangers of making such comments to the media? Surely he should realise that any conclusions should be based on further research as Bernado’s and the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People have suggested? Surely he should realise that the best way to deal with any issue is direct and discreet local-level conversations with the respective communities – and that this would be infinitely more effective than shouting his mouth off on prime time television?
The BNP won’t contextualise his statements in their electoral leaflets- nor will the EDL in promotional material for their next rally. Instead they will point out that a senior politician has talked about “Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way” and how “they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat." Just like the former Prime Minister gave vocal credence the bigoted accusation that immigrants are ‘stealing our jobs’, the former cabinet member has supported the assertion that they are ‘raping our women’. Ironically the man who put up such a sterling performance against Nick Griffin on Question Time in 2010 has gifted him enough promotional material to ride-off throughout 2011.
Cynics may suggest that- rather than reflecting reckless incompetence; Straw’s comments were actually intended to stir up racial tensions. After all domestic societal discord would only reflect badly on the coalition government and as despicable racist Phil Woolas recently demonstrated – Labour politicians are not beyond inciting racism for political gain. Whatever the reason; Straw’s claims were grossly inappropriate and extraordinarily dangerous. Vaz, Miliband and the rest of Labour must now pull out all the stops to repair the damage that their colleague has caused…not only to protect their party’s image, but to limit the benefits that the far-right reap and the damage that they can inflict upon UK society as a result of this incident.